HR Summer School: ADA 103 (Part 1 of 2) Reasonable Accommodation

The HR Summer School Back-to-Back Series continues today with the first of two parts of ADA 103. Reasonable accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), are not easy to manage. To make sure this difficult topic gets adequate coverage, we’re splitting this class into two parts. The outline includes both parts and is provided for your later reference.

I. General Principles

The ADA requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities, except when such accommodations would cause an undue hardship. In general, an accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables the individual to obtain equal employment opportunities.

A. Three categories of “reasonable accommodations”

· Modifications or adjustments to the job-application process;

· Modifications or adjustments to the work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position is normally performed; or

· Modifications or adjustments that enable a covered entity’s employee to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment.

B. Two types of workplace barriers that can be addressed

· Physical obstacles, such as inaccessible facilities or equipment; or

· Procedures or rules, such as rules about when work is performed or when breaks are taken.

II. Employee Must Request Accommodation

In general, it is the empoyee’s obligation to notify the employer that an accommodation is needed. Either the employee or a representative “must let the employer know that he or she needs an adjustment or change at work for a reason related to a medical condition.”

A. Form of the Request

No particular form or phrase is required. The request need not use the phrase “reasonable accommodation” and it need not mention the ADA.

The request does not need to be in writing. The request may be made in conversation. But the employer is well advised to confirm the individual’s request in a letter or memo. Alternatively, the employer may ask the individual to fill out a form or submit the request in writing—but cannot ignore the first request.

B. When a Request May Be Made

The individual may request a reasonable accommodation at any time during the application process or during employment. By not requesting an accommodation at the time of hiring, the employee is not later barred from making a request.

An employer should respond to the request as expeditiously as possible. The interactive process, discussed in the second part of this topic, should also be moved along as quickly as reasonably possible. Unnecessary delays may violate the ADA.

Prior HR Summer School Posts:

ADA 102: What Does the ADA Require

Calling All Students, School Is Now In Session! ADA 101